Ted Stevens Concedes.

19 11 2008

They say it ain’t over til it’s over.

It’s over.

Ted Stevens conceded the Senate race to Mark Begich today.

Given the number of ballots that remain to be counted, it is apparent the election has been decided and Mayor Begich has been elected.

My family and I wish to thank the thousands of Alaskans who stood by us and who supported my re-election. It was a tough fight that would not have been possible without the help of so many Alaskans – people who I am honored to call my friends. I will always remember their thoughts, prayers, and encouragement.

I am proud of the campaign we ran and regret that the outcome was not what we had hoped for. I am deeply grateful to Alaskans for allowing me to serve them for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It has been the greatest honor of my life to work with Alaskans of all political persuasions to make this state that we all love a better place.

I wish Mayor Begich and his family well. My staff and I stand willing to help him prepare for his new position.





Alaska’s Senate Race – The Morning After

19 11 2008

Alaska has a Blue Senator. Mark Begich has won the election.

So where do we stand, and what does this mean?

Mark Begich – It means that Mayor Senator Begich gets to pack his bags and head to Washington DC, with his wife and son, to start giving progressive Alaskans and centrists, and people who don’t want a convicted felon representing them in our nation’s capitol, a voice. If he’s wise, and smart, he will take the Ted Stevens debacle as a cautionary tale. If he plays his cards right, he could be there for a long long time, but the Republican party will have him in their sights, and be watching for every little slip-up.

If the Democrats in the Senate are wise and smart, they’ll be really nice to Senator Begich and give him a couple nice feathers in his cap to wear home to Alaska. They know the kind of bombastic, blow hards Alaska is capable of sending to the capitol, and they probably don’t want it to happen again. And they sure don’t want Sarah Palin gunning for an open senate seat in 6 years. Mark Begich will be like salve on a wound for many who have had to endure Ted Stevens for decades.

Who will fill Mayor Begich’s seat after he leaves? Anchorage Assembly Chair Matt Claman. Matt just took over the chairmanship of the Assembly when a surprise progressive majority took over the paralyzingly conservative Anchorage Assembly that had previously been populated by junior versions of the aforementioned bombastic, blow hards. When the Assembly shifted to the left, Claman was chosen. I know Matt Claman and he’s a good guy. He lacks the extroversion and charisma of Begich, but his principles are sound, and he’s a concensus builder, and a rational thinker. He’ll probably do a pretty good job. He’ll be there until April, when the mayoral elections happen. He may decide to run for the position officially at that time. There are several others who have thrown their hat in the ring too. And this may cause some interesting wrangling, since one of those candidates is Assembly Vice Chair Sheila Selkregg. Today’s Anchorage Daily News has an interesting article on these behind the scenes goings on.

Sarah Palin – Well, God sent a message to Sarah. She said if God opened a door, even a crack, she’d “plow through it”. But tonight, when Begich won a clear victory, and the four decade era of Ted Stevens ended, the door firmly shut tight. She will undoubtedly be looking for another door. The three that may open up next are:

  • The Don Young Door – Congressman Don Young will be up for re-election in 2010, but may be out before then. He’s already spend a whopping 1.2 million dollars on legal fees in anticipation of his own coming indictment. Alaskans have been waiting for that shoe to drop for a while now….and it’s coming. It’s just a question of when. Look for headlines coming soon to a paper near you, now that Alaska politics has wormed its way into the national consciousness. But even if Young survives this, his 19th term in Congress, I don’t think Sarah Palin is gunning for his job. I just don’t think Congress is her style.
  • The Lisa Murkowski Door – Now we’re talking. Sarah unseated Lisa’s father Frank Murkowski when she became governor in 2006. This would be the second Murkowski trophy head on her wall. Murkowski hasn’t done a bad job in most Republican’s minds, but she hasn’t knocked their socks off either. It’s not a sure thing by any means that she’d be able to hold her seat against Palin. And the Senate, as we have just witnessed, can be an effective stepping stone to the Presidency, which is what Palin is gunning for in the long run. That’s the door she thinks God will open for her – the big fat door to the Oval Office. She’s “wired for the mission” and would be ready to run in 2012, or 2016.
  • The Direct Door to the Presidency – If Palin can hold on to office for another term, she may be banking on her national celebrity, and name recognition, and her Christian conservative buddies in high places to take her from the governorship to Pennsylvania Avenue…or so she hopes. She’s up for re-election in 2010. And who knows…she may feel fully qualified by that point to throw her hat in the ring anyway.

And what about Ted Stevens, and his suddenly awkward and very visible namesake – The Ted Stevens International Airport. Before we break out the chisels and hammers, the Anchorage Assembly and the Public Facilities Advisory Commission, and who knows who else, will have to do some political soul searching, and have lots of meetings.

Stevens’ legal appeal process moves forward, and he’ll fight tooth and nail, like he always does. And amazingly, he is still eligible, despite his seven felony convictions, for his senate pension of $122,000 a year, courtesy of taxpayers. Although there is a recently-passed federal law that prohibits felons from collecting on these pensions, Stevens’ particular felonies were not on the list, and they were committed before the law went into effect. Maybe next time.





Vote on Ousting Ted Stevens Delayed. Happy Birthday. UPDATED!

18 11 2008

Ted Stevens turns 85 today, and the GOP has voted to postpone a vote today that would boot Stevens from the GOP conference, until after the results of the Alaska Senate race are known. I guess that’s about as good a birthday present as the embattled Senator can expect this year.

As it stands, Democratic challenger Mark Begich leads Stevens by 1022 votes, a slim lead, but one prognosticators believe may be enough to hold through the last major round of vote counting today. 24,000 votes will be tallied by this evening, and the only ones remaining after that will be votes received from overseas, which will continue to be accepted until Wednesday. Ballots must be postmarked by midnight on November 4th, and are allowed two weeks to arrive in Alaska.

One of the questions on everyone’s mind is what happens when the current administration leaves office? The number of individuals on the list of last-minute pardons to come can only be imagined at this point. Will Stevens be one of those on that list? Not according to Stevens himself who was asked if he would seek a pardon.

Stevens simply said “No” when asked about a Bush pardon, and bristled when a reporter asked if he expected to be expelled as a political liability to Republicans battling an image of corruption.

“That’s just your words,” he said. “As a matter of fact, when the indictment was announced, they said it was not a corruption case, it was not a bribery case. It was a simple matter of failing to disclose. Maybe some of the verbiage that you are using is not proper.”

Senate Republicans are meeting to determine their leadership and a variety of motions. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had intended to offer a motion expelling Stevens from the conference, but postponed it until Thursday just minutes after Tuesday morning’s meeting began.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘pleased,’ but I’m happy with that,” Stevens said of the delay.

Stevens said his race in Alaska won’t be final until Nov. 25, and that he remains confident of victory. He is currently trailing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) by more than 1,000 votes.

“I still think I’m going to win,” he said.

Stevens said he expects the Republican Party will ask for a recount in the race, given the narrow margin.

So, that’s the word from Ted Stevens who is one tough nut, and cantankerous to the end. No asking for a pardon (at least not officially), and a probable recount. The bad news is that this election will seemingly never end. The good news is that a hand recount will potentially expose some election “abnormalities” that are a result of the unreliable and easily manipulated Diebold machines responsible for the vote tally that was tampered with in 2004, and that continue to be used to this day.

And the ride goes on.

UPDATE – First new results in!

Mark Begich – 146,286

Ted Stevens – 143,912

That gives Begich a comfortable lead of 2,374

*****************************************************

UPDATE #2:  Finall tally for the day has Mark Begich up by 3724!  Will Stevens concede?  Will Begich declare victory?  Will we have a recount?  Stay tuned!

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Another Election Eve in Alaska. Recount Possibility?

17 11 2008

1600. That’s the magic number. If Mark Begich can increase his lead from 1022 to 1600, it will put him over the recount threshold. If the margin of victory is under .5%, the state will pay for a recount if requested by either candidate, or a group of 10 citizens. If the margin is over .5%, then the candidate would have to pay for a recount himself. An automatic recount is generated only in the unlikely (but nothing would surprise me at this point) event of a tie.

Will Stevens ask for a recount if he comes up short?  It’s anyone’s guess.  If anyone would do it, it’s Ted.  But he may decide to leave well enough alone, and spare himself from his almost certain expulsion from the US Senate.  But Stevens is not one to back down.  Ever.

Let me be the first to say that Alaskans are eagerly looking forward to this election being over.  We were all prepared to wrap it up on November 4th, and are now faced with the election that wouldn’t die.  But, there is a bright side to a potential recount.  Recounts are done by hand count.  It would be interesting to see how a good old-fashioned hand count fared in comparison to the suspect results that come from our particular brand of nefarious vote counting software.  It might be the only vote of integrity Alaskans will have seen for several cycles.

And, if it flips the other way and Stevens regains his advantage, maybe Mark Begich will demand a recount.

The counting finishes tomorrow with approximately 24,000 ballots coming from Anchorage, Southeast Alaska, and the Kenai Penninsula remaining.  When all is said and done it looks like Alaska’s percentage of voter turnout will be about 65%, which is less than the 66% voter turnout just four years ago, despite Palin and Obama on the ticket, and despite the addition of more than 20,000 new registered voters this year.  There are many loose ends to be tied up before this is all over, and once the votes are counted.

And just in time for a little comic relief from the Stevens-Begich duel to the death, check out Juror #11’s Blog! That’s right.  Blogging jurors.  This is a hilarious recounting of the Ted Stevens trial from the perspective of Juror #11.  Too bad she wasn’t allowed to blog during the trial! This is the juror who, although initially pegged as an alternate, got to step in when the infamous Juror #4 fled the scene after making up the story about her father dying, so she could go attend a horse race.

Here’s Juror #11’s summary of the trial’s opening statements: (‘Salmmy’ is Ted Stevens….we don’t know why yet, but have been promised an explanation in the future)

The prosectution: I am Rosie, and Salmmy is guilty of fraud! False Statements! Lying! Receiving Gifts! Furniture! Generator! Free Work done on his house! Statue! Puppy! Stained Glass Window! Mustang! – Wait?! Did she just say Mustang? What was that about a Mustang? Whose Mustang? Are you giving out Free Mustangs? Damn, now I really have to listen to find out more about that mustang! (yes, I love mustangs and am sure at one point I doodled ‘Mustang of love’ a dozen times in my notebook like a love sick teenager. I really hope they shredded those notebooks). Sadly, after the mustang bit my head was a little cloudy, but I think she said that they would prove their evidence in the next couple of weeks.

The defense: I am a whimisical old man! I don’t like microphones or standing in one spot! (I swear his nickname was going to be Orville Redenbocker if he had continued in this vein. I wanted to give him a straw hat, bow tie and a red stripped vest). Luckily he got to the point: Salmmy is innocent! He is old and confused! He hardley even goes to Alaska! His wife handled all the bills! His bestest friend didn’t tell him what was happening! Seriously? Oh, and Bill Allen is the Evil. He tricked Salmmy!

There are also before and after pictures of Ted’s chalet, and other amusing tidbits about the Alaskan trial of the century.  I’ll be putting a link in the sidebar for this one.

And then tomorrow, back to the serious stuff.





So How Did the Alaskan Independence Party Do?

14 11 2008

OK, the official numbers are not in yet in Alaska, but we can feel fairly confident that no candidate from the Alaskan Independence Party is going to win a seat this year.  But how did they fare?  They certainly got a lot more press than usual this year…especially from outside of Alaska.

The AIP Presidential candidate vote total went from .67% in 2004 to .52% in 2008.  No real change.

But, the AIP Senatorial candidate went from 1.22% in 2004 to 4.14% in 2008.  Almost a threefold increase!  Did the AIP become all the rage because of the trendy secessionist tendencies of Todd Palin, Alaska’s First Dude and “former” AIPer?  Did AIP Senate candidate Bob Bird, just ride the Palin’s coattails?

Or maybe the increase is due to those Republicans that couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a convicted felon, but also couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat?

Or maybe it’s because Ron Paul (who fared better than John McCain in the primary up here) endorsed Bob Bird, the AIP’s Senate candidate.  Those Ron Paul fans are pretty loyal, and so this is a definite possibility. 

It’s interesting to note that the increase in AIP votes from 2004 to 2008 would more than make up the difference between the now trailing Ted Stevens, and his Democratic rival for the senate seat, Mark Begich. I suppose in a metaphorical way, you could say that Ron Paul may have given Ted Stevens the “Bird”.

The only other AIP candidate on the ticket this year was Dan DeNardo running in House District 31.  You may remember him from a little bedtime story on Mudflats last month.  Just a quick reminder if you don’t want to go back and read the whole thing…

Here’s his bio:

“I study the creation and impact of the Luciferian Marxist-Lenninist Dialectical Sovietism that is the most encompassing secular historical force controlling every incorporated political party; the world’s exchange systems based on perpetual indentured slavery through interest bearing irredeemable security obligations, i.e. federal reserve notes; Law Merchant advisory panels masquerading as “juries”; bar associations composed strictly of card-carrying Kommunist Komrade Kriminals acting in Alaska under the Alaska Supreme Soviet in conjunction with Soviet counterparts in NKVD through the Khabarovsk-Alaska Collectivization Project; and state sponsored Kriminal Globalism’s “perpetual War for perpetual peace.”

And this guy got 3%…..so all my theorizing about Bob Bird’s 4% may have just been blown out the window. Maybe it’s just Alaska.





Stevens and Begich – The Counting Continues.

14 11 2008

Another day of counting has begun. What started on election day as a 3200 vote lead for convicTed Stevens, swung to an 814 vote lead for Democratic challenger Mark Begich on Monday when a huge stack of absentee and early ballots were counted.

Today is round two. Here’s what will be counted today.

About 510 questioned ballots from Southeast, the Peninsula and Southwest Alaska

About 5,180 absentee and questioned ballots from Mat-Su

Questioned, absentee ballots from Richardson Highway and the Interior

About 3,600 absentee and questioned ballots from Western and Northwest Alaska, and North Slope

To Be Counted on Monday

Leftover absentee ballots from Richardson Highway and the Interior

To Be Counted on Tuesday

About 15,700 questioned and absentee ballots from Anchorage

About 8,300 absentee ballots from Southeast, Kenai Peninsula and Southwest Alaska

Begich made a big push for his supporters to vote early. Also, Republicans believe Stevens got a boost when he returned to Alaska from his trial less than a week before the election and began rallying supporters. People who voted earlier would not have been part of that lift.

Stevens’ supporters think he can come back as more absentee votes cast following his homecoming are counted. Still, the fact that the votes are coming from Begich majority districts leave the Democrats’ supporters quietly optimistic.

Yes, one can only imagine how many of those who were on the fence decided to align themselves with the convicted felon after his inspirational, and victorious homecoming from the trial.

An image from the inspirational Welcome Home Ted rally.

An image from the inspirational Welcome Home Ted rally.

On Monday, the Division of Elections released one batch of numbers during the day, and the final tally at about 8:30pm. It’s anyone’s guess how they’ll release the information today. Stay tuned.





Latest Alaskan Numbers and Palin’s Potential Senate Run.

12 11 2008

So, IF Ted Stevens gets re-elected, and IF he gets expelled from the senate, we will have a special election to fill the seat.  Any takers?

In an interview today with Wolf Blitzer (I wonder if she had an urge to shoot him from a helicopter?) Sarah Palin said that she feels as though she has a “contract with Alaskans” to continue to serve as governor, but didn’t completely rule out a run for the U.S. Senate if there was an opportunity to do so.

Palin said, speaking of Alaska voters,  “if they call an audible on me, and if they say they want me in another position, I’m going to do it. … My life is in God’s hands. If he’s got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interest, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”

She also said she would not appoint herself or a member of her family to the vacant senate seat….which is nice, because that would be illegal.  (bangs head on desk)

So obviously a lot hangs in the balance in this Senate race – not only another potential Democrat in the Senate, but whether Sarah Palin will gain a foothold in Washington.  The first batch of uncounted ballots will be finished tonight.  The official count from the Division of Elections has Democrat Mark Begich leading ConvicTed Stevens by THREE votes.  There are about 10,000 ballots scheduled to be counted today, and nobody is going home until it’s done.  There are about 35,000 more ballots to be counted in the next week. 

Ethan Berkowitz has made up a little ground on Republican incumbent Don Young but still trails by 15,710. 






Palin and the Crack in the Door.

12 11 2008

door

Alaska, bar the door! Here’s the latest little gem from Governor Sarah Palin. For six weeks we couldn’t get her to talk, and now we can’t get her to stop!

“You know, I have — faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator’s hands — this is what I always do. I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it’s cracked up a little bit, maybe I’ll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”

Can somebody out there help me shove this huge heavy dresser over there in front of that door? EErrrrrgggghhhh.

For more thoughts on Palin’s crack in the door, the Alaska vote, and the future of convicted Senator Ted Stevens, check out Rachel Maddow and her guest, fellow Alaskan blogger and radio journalist Shannyn Moore! Here’s the LINK.

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Vote Count in Alaska – Volunteer Opportunity!

9 11 2008

For all Alaskan Mudflatters, here is an opportunity to participate in the final vote count. No, our election is not over yet, and all the early votes that came in between October 31 and November 3, plus a steady stream of absentee ballots being received by mail, and “question” ballots still need to be counted.

Vote monitors are needed to help in Fairbanks, Juneau, Wasilla, Nome, and Anchorage.

If you can offer some time to help with this effort, please contact one of the following:

Mark Begich campaign: info@begich.com or featherlybean@gmail.com

Alaska Democratic office: info@alaskademocrats.org

Ethan Berkowitz campaign: info@ethanberkowitz.com

Thanks for considering one last way you can participate and help every vote be counted in this historic election!

UPDATE: Looks like this effort is fully staffed! Thanks to all who stepped up!  **The Begich campaign is looking for a list of backup help should the need arise, so feel free to contact them.**





Alaska Senate and House Races Bring Surprises.

5 11 2008

It’s been an amazing day in American politics. President Elect Obama has heard the voice of America, and it is demanding change. The future seems full of promise and possibility for the first time in a long time.

But back on the Last Frontier, we know it just wouldn’t be Alaska if things went smoothly, or predictably. Any day now, I expect new Alaskan license plates to be released saying “Alaska” on the top, and “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” across the bottom.

Despite polling numbers that indicated comfortable leads for Senate candidate Mark Begich, and House candidate Ethan Berkowitz, both races are too close to call until the final absentee and early votes are counted. Yes, it seems that we now have a “Stevens Effect”, people who say they wouldn’t vote for a convicted felon to pollsters, but when they get behind the curtain, they just can’t seem to resist the temptation.

Mark Begich (D) vs. Ted Stevens (R-I)

At last count with 99% of precincts reporting Begich trailed Stevens by only 4000 votes, 46.5% to 48%. But don’t write off Begich just yet. There are tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted – almost 50,000 in all. Absentee ballots have yet to be tallied, and more are arriving daily. In addition, any early votes that happened between last Thursday and Election Eve, are still to be counted. What does all this mean? We won’t know the outcome of this race for two weeks.

If Stevens is elected, he will face expulsion by the Senate, Alaskans will have the dubious honor of being the only state to ever elect a convicted felon, and Stevens will face expulsion. It will require a 2/3 vote to remove him. Sarah Palin, who asked Stevens to step down so Alaskans could have a “real” choice would NOT be able to appoint anyone to fill the seat. I heard pundits last night speculating that Palin would appoint herself to the seat. That will not happen. The Alaska Supreme Court has already decided this issue and removed the right of a governor to appoint anyone to a senate seat. Period. That said, there is nothing to prevent Palin from entering herself as a candidate in the special election to fill that seat.

So, what happened?

There are as many theories and opinions as people. Here are a few.

  • Stevens is more like family than a mere politician. If he says he’s innocent, then he’s innocent. He was railroaded. He continues to have the support of Alaska’s other Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman Don Young. The feds were just out to get him.
  • Some Alaskans, despite being presented with the facts, will never ever vote Democratic. Ever.
  • Stevens gained votes from the inflated Republican turnout that came out to vote for Palin.
  • If Stevens gets in and gets expelled by the senate, there’s another opportunity to get a different Republican in that seat and not create a potential Democratic dynasty. This was openly promoted by right wing talk radio before the election.
  • Some Alaska voters have voted for Stevens every election of their lives. They’re happy with what he’s done, so why stop now?
  • Alaskans are terrified of giving up seniority in the Senate. We’re ignored a lot, and we worry that if Ted isn’t there with his experience, his connections, and his doggedness, we’ll be up a creek.
  • Nobody “outside” (aka the Federal Government, the FBI and the IRS) is going to tell me who to vote for. (sticking out chin, crossing arms and feeling like and Alaskan “maverick”)

Ethan Berkowitz (D) vs. Don Young (R-I)

This race is not as tight as the Senate race. In a stunning outcome that flies in the face of all recent polls, Don Young looks like he will pull it off. The bombastic, bloviating incumbent has a comfortable lead over the favored newcomer, and is up by more than 17,000 votes. The same 50,000 ballots have yet to be counted for these candidates, but that’s a pretty big margin to make up for Berkowitz. So, as excruciating as it is, and despite the fact that Berkowitz has not conceded, we may be sending Don Young back for his 19th term as Alaska’s one and only member of the House of Representatives. I would like to extend my humble apologies to the United States Congress. Forgive us, for we know not what we do.

So what happened?

Look back up at the “So what happened?” section above and insert the name Don Young, every time you see the name Ted Stevens, and add the following:

  • Just because he’s spent $1.2 million in legal fees, doesn’t mean he’s done anything wrong. He hasn’t even been indicted yet!

Asked if he was surprised at the way the numbers were running, Young said, “Not me. … The pollsters were wrong and they’ve always been wrong. … They don’t understand Alaska.”

The Anchorage Daily News has some good coverage of the Stevens-Begich race and the Young-Berkowitz race.

There are many chapters yet to be written.

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Push-Poll to Nowhere. GOP Starts to Panic About Alaska!

3 11 2008

We’ve had an interesting new development here in the Last Frontier, as we approach election day. A few days ago, I found out that a rash of robocalls and push-polls were going out in the state of Alaska. When I heard about this, I was irritated for the same reason that other progressives are irritated at this tactic – spurious accusations of Obama being a terrorist sympathizer, a socialist, a Marxist, an elitist, and someone with blatant anti-plumber tax policies. All nonsense, but some people actually listen to nonsense.

Then the bigger picture hit me like a ton of bricks. Why on Earth would the Republican National Committee, or any Republican group have to robocall and push-poll Alaskans about the presidential race!? With only slightly more than hours to go, surely they have better things to do than preach to the choir.

Well, apparently, the choir has stopped singing. They’re kind of standing around, staring at the hymnal and looking at each other thinking, “Do we really want to sing this?”

The fact that the Republicans are robocalling Alaskans means they are worried. They may or may not be worried about actually losing the presidential race in the state, but they are worried about the margin of victory. At this point, it’s all about saving face for the party, and for Sarah Palin. Yes, the Sarah Palin who said that robocalls were “annoying”.

So, where are these calls happening? Ted Stevens’ neighbors in the sleepy chalet-filled hamlet of Girdwood, have been getting them. Summarized by one one Girdwood resident, the call reiterated Stevens’ assertion that he is not a crook, and threw in a few fun facts about how Barack Obama is a “terrorist who will run this country into the ground.”

But my favorite was a push-poll to Ketchikan. Ketchikan is the infamous “Nowhere, Alaska,” where that bridge was supposed to go. And yes, Ketchikan residents are rightfully miffed that they got labeled with that nickname, and then got thrown under the bus so Sarah Palin could have a talking point. You can hear the real story of the bridge from Bob Weinstein, mayor of Ketchikan, when he spoke to Rachel Maddow way back on September 2nd.

Back to the push-poll.

One resident of Ketchikan was the recipient of a fairly sophisticated interactive push-poll from americansincontact.org. After identifying himself as an Obama supporter, there were two main pushes. First, Obama’s association with, and acceptance of funds from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – Would it make a difference “if you knew that?”

Second, “If you knew Obama supported the biggest tax increase in history, averaging more than $2000 for an average family, would that make a difference?”

This is the standard leading misinformation we have come to expect. So, why do I love this call? The Obama supporter they called was the aforementioned mayor of Ketchikan himself, Bob Weinstein!

(A big hat-tip to Mayor Weinstein for bringing this to my attention, and a shout out to all the wonderful Mudflatters in Ketchikan!)

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Ted Stevens Update

2 11 2008

Our embattled Senior Senator Ted Stevens is facing the fallout of his seven felony convictions at every turn.  Here’s a semi-concise summary of where things stand.

Poll Numbers – The latest polls in Alaska, taken after the conviction, show Anchorage Mayor and Democratic challenger Mark Begich ahead with a commanding 22 point lead.    36% of Alaskans don’t mind voting for a convicted felon, but 58% do.  So that’s something.  The race was in a statistical tie just before the conviction, which makes you wonder why he pressed so hard for a speedy trial.  If he hadn’t requested it, he’d be in a lot better shape today.

Law License – Ted Stevens is an attorney, and last Thursday, the Alaska Bar Association sought to temporarily suspend his license to practice law.  Under the Bar Association rules, a conviction is considered to take effect as soon as the verdict is handed down by the jury. (Remember this for the next section).

Ability to Vote – The Division of Elections sought counsel from the Alaska Department of Law regarding whether Senator Stevens will, in fact, be prevented from voting on Tuesday.  Assistant Attorney General Michael Barnhill returned the opinion that Stevens may vote, and that the restriction of that privilege, due to felony conviction, comes at the moment of sentencing, and after the appeals process has run its course.  It’s interesting to note that the day this opinion was released by Barnhill, two callers in to progressive talk radio station KUDO in Anchorage, said that they were convicted felons and that they had lost their right to vote immediately upon the guilty verdict, despite the fact that they had appealed the case and were not yet sentenced. 

PFD Check – Because Stevens committed his seven felonies outside the state of Alaska, he will be allowed to continue to receive his Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check.  Had the crimes been committed in the state of Alaska, he would have been ineligible to receive the annual check.  If Stevens’ appeal is tried in the state, and he loses, he would also lose his check.

Endorsements – Stevens still retains the support of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Congressman Don Young, and his long-time close friend Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.  Those on the other side who have rapidly distanced themselves from Stevens and have asked for him to step down are:  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, and VP nominee and Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin.

In a statement released by the Stevens campaign, [Senator] Inouye argues that his longtime friend will be seated as a Member of the Senate next year if re-elected and that he believes the felony convictions will be overturned.

“As the Senate has done in every other instance in its long 220-year history, I am absolutely confident that Ted Stevens will be sworn into the Senate while he appeals this unjust verdict, I am certain that this decision in Washington, D.C., will be overturned on appeal,” Inouye said.

But Reid rejected that reading of Senate history and chastised Stevens for using his friend in a political campaign.

“While I respect the opinion of Senator Daniel Inouye, the reality is that a convicted felon is not going to be able to serve in the United States Senate. And as precedent shows us, Senator Stevens will face an ethics committee investigation and expulsion, regardless of his appeals process,” Reid said.

Expulsion – Expulsion requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate, and is likely should Stevens be re-elected.  As much of a lion as Stevens has been, and although he has built solid relationships in the Senate, I don’t believe that more than a third of the Senate will fall on their swords to support him.  Voters don’t like politicians that like to pal around with convicted felons.

Appointment to vacant Senate seat –

If Stevens does get re-elected and then expelled, Alaska law states that there must be a special election held to fill the seat.  Sarah Palin, as Governor, cannot appoint herself to fill the seat.  She cannot appoint anyone to fill the seat, either permanently or temporarily.  There has been widespread misinformation on this point, including information coming from the head of the Division of Elections.  Yes, really…

The Alaska Replacement of U.S. Senators Act, also known as Alaska Ballot Measure 4 was on the November election ballot in Alaska.  It passed, with 55.6% of voters in favor.

The ballot initiative related to how the state fills its U.S. Senate vacancies, which became an issue in Alaska after Republican Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa Murkowski his Senate seat when he was elected governor in 2002.

Prior to the successful passage of the 2004 ballot measure, the governor could appoint a replacement to a vacant Senate seat. The initiative was primarily sponsored by Democratic legislators. It abolished the practice of appointments and required a special election in all cases except when the vacancy occurs within 60 days of a primary election.

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, the Republican chief of the Division of Elections, twice removed the measure from the Nov. 2 ballot but was ordered by the Alaska Supreme Court to put it back on.

He wrote the initiative’s ballot summary, which said the proposition would leave Alaska without full representation in the Senate for three to five months.

The group that petitioned for the initiative, Trust the People, sued for an injunction once it discovered the language of the summary on Sept. 21.

The language that appeared on the ballot:

This measure would repeal state law that allows the Governor to appoint a person to temporarily fill a vacant seat in the United States Senate until an election can be held and certified. Under this measure a vacated seat would remain vacant for three to five months, leaving Alaska without full representation in the Senate. Other provisions are identical to existing law and those parts of the law remain unchanged. Current law requires that a senate vacancy be filled by special election, or regular election if the vacancy occurs less than 60 days before the primary election for that seat.

If Governor Palin attempted to put someone in that seat without a special election, there would be legal action filed within hours. Guaranteed.

However, that said, nothing would prevent Palin from running for that seat against whomever else the Republican party rules allowed to run.

At this point, down by 22 points, Stevens stands next to no chance of winning his re-election bid.  So, at the risk of jinxing it, I think this is a shoe-in for Begich.  BUT, Lisa Murkowski, the Senator mentioned above, is running for re-election in 2010.  I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that Palin has her eye on that seat.  She already took down one Murkowski in a Republican primary, so why not try for another?  She’s caught a bit of the flavor of being in the national spotlight, and she likes it.

I’ll quote my Grandmother, just because I like to do that.  She would have said, “How do you get Nellie back on the farm, once she’s seen Par-ee?”